Much has been written about Sleaford Mods; the non-musicality jibes, the faux-chav accusations, the lazy comparisons. Serendipity allowed me to sit in on the “An audience with…” in the AB’s adjoining bar a few hours before the show, and the strokes of misperception are bolder if anything from a non-UK perspective. The host began by showing a bemused Jason Williamson a photo-projection of Sleaford parish church, and then a brief quiz about Crass followed. Andrew Fearn was grilled on his onstage role and beer consumption, and the audience were asked some rudimentary lyrical questions (“Who knows what Notts refers to in this one?”…durrr.)

The Belgian host, bless him, viewed them as an anthropological marvel, as if they’d been preserved in amber since 1977 under a stack of Sniffin’ Glue fanzines. For better or worse they’ve become unofficial torch-bearers for everything from the North/South-divide to the Bash Street Kids, and you get the impression they can’t work out why either.

But on to the show, and like a Zen koan, words can’t adequately explain the mystery. Any amount of over-analysis fails to shine a light on why it works, but by Christ it does! The music is gritty and primal, which has has led to all the Punk comparisons, but it serves mainly as a grim no-frills, stripped-down backdrop, a bed (of nails) to carry Williamson’s barbed ranting stream of consciousness vitriol.
Things kick off with a run of songs from latest album ‘Key Markets’, slices of scattershot spitting bile, Williamson a nervous-twitch inflicted thug with tourettes and St Vitus Dance, flicking imaginary headlice into the crowd. It’s riveting to watch, and to hear – a barrage of cultural references to70s kids’ TV, breakfast cereals, callous political buffoons and the hi-viz utter naff-ness of Britain.
Do you think you will ever run out of ideas, asked the amiable host? The response – not any time soon matey, look around, I’m spoilt for fuckin’ choice.

Sleaford Mods spot their targets and don’t pull any punches, and there’s a creeping unease spreading through poptastic-land. Someone better shut this guy up; he’s making the rest of us look bad.

They command the stage for over an hour, every track a crowd-pleaser. It’s a vital, incendiary performance.
Their most oft-stated reference point, The Streets, scored big because their rhymes were smart and relevant, but Mike Skinner still felt he had to indulge in the tiresome one-upmanship that reduces most Rap to a pissing contest. Sleaford Mods have no time for that, it’d be like bragging to your mates how big your dick is whilst neglecting to mention that the house is on fire. But Babylon is burning and it seems that Williamson and Fearn are the only ones smelling smoke, let alone reaching for the fire extinguisher.

Setlist

Arabia
Bronx In A Six
Live Tonight
No One’s Botherer
Face To Faces
A Little Ditty
Jolly Fucker
Fizzy
Tiswas
Giddy On The Ciggies
In Quiet Streets
Kill It Clean
Tied Up in Nottz
Jobseeker

Encore
Tarantula Deadly Cargo
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